Profile: Chiquita Searle (Chi)

We talk a lot about fashion and what’s on trend but usually in a context of the runway or the street (so to speak), the corporate world is something I wouldn’t have thought of. Not so for Chiquita Searle who saw the hole in the market and has dedicated herself to bringing on trend fashion to the corporate ladder. I learnt a little more about her and her label in this recent interview.

Visit the website at:

How did you come to start your own label, what prompted you to move into design?

I always knew I would establish my own fashion label at some stage and about 18 months ago I reassessed where I was personally and professionally and it seemed like a good time to put the wheels into motion. There is a strong creative element to my personality which I feel is only ever fully expressed through creating and showcasing my own sense of style. I think each person has their own unique sense of self, and clothes, in my mind is a perfect way to express this. Establishing my own fashion label and sharing what I believe to be timeless and classical pieces with other women, was a natural progression in my own sense of self and expression.

Doing the Business Dress

Where did the inspiration for the pieces come from?

I find inspiration everywhere. It comes easily and naturally. I literally think about new designs ALL the time. I sleep with a pencil and pad next to me at night and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to quickly capture a new design or idea. I can sit down for 30 minutes and have 6 new designs ready to go. I’m a visual person so the visual image I see of a new design is very strong in my mind and then it’s just a matter of putting pencil to paper.

What sets Chi the Label apart from other labels?

After studying at the Paris Fashion Institute last year, I realised that there is a market the world over for stylish on trend corporate wear that doesn’t have to incorporate the traditional suit. Our options have been rather limited and Chi fills that gap by providing stylish corporate ensembles which are both edgy and feminine. They also come completely styled so my clients are educated on how to wear them so they are walking the “corporate runway” everyday so to speak!

There’s more to Chi than just shopping, can you tell us a little about the Chi Communique?

Chi designs 3 complete outfits per month which are interchangeable and emailed to Chi women via the Chi Communique on the 1st of each month. Each outfit is produced in limited numbers and once sold will not be reproduced so it’s an exclusive offering that comes fully styled and guaranteed not to be on every woman in a ten mile radius.

What are the Chi Corporate Styling Sessions?

I recently completed a survey of the shopping trends of corporate women in Australia and the overwhelming result was that corporate women are frustrated with their lack of understanding in how to style an outfit, what to wear to flatter their body shape and in some cases not even knowing what body shape they are! In my opinion, there is no point to beautiful clothes without fully understanding how to wear them. Hence the introduction of the Chi Corporate Styling Sessions. It’s my mission to educate corporate woman on how to look fabulous for the office every day without fail! Plus it’s fun; the ladies indulge in some champagne, they are treated like a model and fully styled in an amazing outfit that suits them, their personality and they feel fabulous for it!

slouch Around the Office Pants

The Happy Birthday Alice collection is certainly a catchy name, can you tell us a bit about the collection?

The Happy Birthday Alice Collection was my first collection which was a tribute to a beautiful friend of mine Alice for her 30th birthday. It represents her personality which is quirky, mischievous and a little bit naughty. The Corporate wear is my true passion and it’s the direction my label will follow for the future.

How would you describe the Chi Corporate collection?

An affordable, interchangeable collection of corporate meets sexy, timeless chic. Chi pieces seek to instil a sense of confidence, sassiness and individuality into the stylish working woman.

Have you got a favourite piece?

I have many! I love the Not the Secretary Dress due to its versatility as it can be worn with a white business shirt with sleeves rolled up to work. 5pm hits, take the shirt off and voila, you’re ready for cocktail hour! I also love the Lace & Pretties Halterneck as the lace is just divine and there were only 10 ever made – 5 cream, 5 black. I still have a couple left…

How do you decide on fabrics, they certainly sound exotic and exclusive?

The fabric is of the utmost importance. I’ve used Lace imported from France, Satin Duchesse from Switzerland, Lambskin Leather from Japan. Fabric is something I don’t compromise on. I am very particular and only select those which are of the highest quality because even the most beautiful design is nothing without quality fabric.

There is a pop-up store opening in QLD in April, can you tell us a little about it?

In January I started organising an event called “An Old Scholar Fashion Affair” which was essentially born out of a desire to assist talented designers become recognised in a sometimes closed industry. This event showcases 7 immensely talented Queensland Designers at Oh Hello in Brisbane on April 13th. The Pop Up Shop was a natural progression in that it will play host to these amazing designers again, giving the public an opportunity to sample their wares; try on the clothes, touch the fabric, experience the designs and most importantly take them home! The Pop Up Shop will be located at Level 2, 6 Marshall Street, Fortitude Valley and will be open from 11th – 28th April.

Apart from the website and the pop-up store, is there anywhere else we can purchase your designer pieces?

Through the Chi Corporate Styling Sessions. These are becoming very popular and the ladies love trying on all the different combinations to find out what suits their personality and individual sense of style.

What’s next for Chiquita Searle?

To have Chi The Label recognised as the premier provider of corporate wear for the professional woman both nationally and internationally. Watch out CUE, I’m coming for you!

What does being a woman mean to you?

For me, feeling sexy and confident is the quintessence of being a woman. The true essence of a woman is how she feels, not what she looks like or what she wears. If a woman feels good about herself this translates into every aspect of her life which is again why I love the Corporate Styling Sessions so much. They change the way a woman feels about herself. Nothing is more important than feeling good about yourself. The rest will follow.

Thank you for speaking with us Chi, and I can certainly agree with the Lace & Pretties Halterneck – it’s gorgeous. Good Luck with the Pop-Up and the next step.

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